Visitors of Australia’s largest annual light festival will get their moment of fame when a submerged giant human head rising out of Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD borrows their faces for a unique public installation.

Aptly called e|MERGEnce, the giant head is a 3D light sculpture that comes to life in real time, projecting visitors’ faces via the latest projection mapping and video captured interaction technology.

Designed by the Brisbane office of The Buchan Group for Vivid Sydney Festival, the installation aims to give visitors a chance to ‘embody’ the physical structure, and become a part of the festival itself.

“e|MERGEnce plays on themes of scale, personality and realism, and invites the audience to see themselves as never before using amplified light, shade, texture and colour effects,” says The Buchan Group’s senior associate, Anthony Rawson.

“Using cutting edge digital design and fabrication techniques and 3D projection mapping, this installation allows viewers to become part of the artwork by live streaming their face to fit the giant head.”

The pieces of the head were machined on a CNC 5-axis router from high-density EPS, with the assembly and finishing layers done by hand.

The form of sculpture was generation aggregating and averaging 3D head scan data, and then re-topologised to create the triangular facets. HD webcams capture live feeds of people, with the video fed into the custom geometric transform software that re-maps it to the head within seconds.

According to Rawson, people who stand in one of two subject locations in front of the sculpture will be incorporated into the projection. The projection will continue until they move beyond the area.

The installation builds on the narrative of The Buchan Group’s 2012 Vivid sculpture, sub|version, which featured a giant figure submerged in the waters of Circular Quay.

It is also reminiscent of London-based architect Asif Khan’s kinetic and interactive installation at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, which displayed the faces of participants in 3D.

e|MERGEnce will be at Sydney’s Martin Place from 23 May to 9 June from 6pm each night. Other highlights of this year’s Vivid Sydney program include the lighting of the sails of the Opera House, a water and light show in Darling Harbour, and 50 new light installations running along the foreshore of Campbell’s Cove and Walsh Bay.